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Published: January 22nd 2017
Rocks & Rice
Hampi's quite stunning scenery of lush, green paddy fields backed by big red boulders.
To answer the question I asked at the end of my last blog entry, perhaps it was the right decision to leave. My bill at the Jungle Cafe back on Om Beach was a bit more than I was expecting and I ended up using up all my ₹2,000 - which had been my cash buffer that now no longer existed. I still had a few ₹100 rupee notes lying around but I'm not sure I would've had enough cash to stay another couple of nights in ATM-less Om Beach - so from an economic standpoint, I think it was a good decision to leave.
Having been told there was a two hour delay to the bus, I was surprised when it suddenly popped up at the middle-of-nowhere hotel I was waiting at after just half an hour of waiting. The ride to Hampi was rough though. I almost think that sitting in a seat might be a more comfortable option as every turn and brake almost threw me off my sleeper.
On the bus with me was Immy, an English girl I had originally met in Anjuna, Goa. Groggy as f*ck, we shared a tuk-tuk to the river and
View From Matanga Hill
The column-flanked road leading to the Virupaksha Temple is the ancient bazaar, once the commercial heart of the old city.
our driver must've been laughing all the way to the bank as he asked us to name our price. I was still half asleep so I wasn't sure how far it was to where we were going so I told him ₹200 for what turned out to be little more than a kilometre. We should have paid about ₹50. The guy even had the cheek to give us his card for future rip offs - and why not take further advantage of such generous tourists? Incidentally, ₹50 was also the price to cross the river to where we were staying via a motorised dinghy. The other side was so close and there were so many boulders in the river that a couple of planks in strategic places would allow people to walk across the river and put these buggers out of business.
Despite my grogginess, I was still able to appreciate the extraordinary landscape of ruins, paddy fields, red boulders and rivers that lay in front of me. The ruins are dotted all over the place and aren't fenced off or anything so it almost feels as though the ruins are still being lived in. Hampi hasn't earned its rave
Such Great Heights
Tom climbing one of the boulders. The picture is a little deceiving - the boulder is in fact only four metres high.
reviews for nothing.
The hostel I checked into was the famous-among-backpackers Goan Corner whose business relies almost totally on word-of-mouth. It's a very social place with loads of young backpackers, an iconic rooftop dorm where you sleep under the stars (and a mosquito net) and is kind-of the only place in Hampi to hang out at in the evenings. Frustratingly, the wifi was shit again and was only on between 10am and 10pm - with a blog to write and a trip to plan, there is only so long I can go without decent wifi - and although the idea of sleeping under the stars is nice, it presented problems with trying to catch a much needed nap in the middle of the day when your bed is being fried by the midday sun. Thankfully an Indian couple were nice enough to let me sleep in the hammock underneath the porch of their hut - they were lifesavers! But they couldn't help me at night though, when it was freezing. No hot water here either. Thus I had to sleep in jeans, a thermal and my jacket and still I wasn't really warm enough. You can't get a good
Amazingly atmospheric temple beside Matanga Hill.
night's sleep when you're constantly shivering. Also, my locker was downstairs, away from my bed and the rest of my stuff too which was annoyingly inconvenient. But at ₹300 rupees a night, I had to tough it out.
Perhaps due to its stunning setting, Hampi was made capital of the Vijayaganara Empire, who ruled the area from the 14th to the 16th centuries. In its prime, it was one of the richest cities in the world and was home to half a million people. Though destroyed by an alliance of other kings - after which the city never recovered - there are still plenty of reminders about the place today that act as memorials to Hampi's rich history.
Where most people stay over the river in Virupapur Gaddi, most of the sights reside on the other side. Hampi Bazaar is a small network of alleys filled with shops, guest houses and restaurants and has a cool nomadic village vibe; looking over the bazaar is Virupaksha Temple. Walking east along an ancient boulevard flanked by the stone columns of the old bazaar is the Monolithic Bull, which is towered over by Matanga Hill which provides an amazing view over Hampi.
Impressive statue of this avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.
It's amazing how you can freely run amok around the ruins and how people still live among them.
The Achutaraya Temple with its amazingly intricate ruins and lack of visitors is right next to Matanga Hill; from the temple you walk north into the eeriness of Sule Bazaar, the old reputed red light district.
I hired a bike one day to check out the rest of the sights which included the Vittali Temple, which required a bit of mountain biking across uneven bricks, silty sand and stone slopes to get to. Intricacy is the most impressive feature of all of these temples and the Krishna Temple is no exception. All the Hindu temples generally follow the same layout and which includes an underground moat. The Lakshimi Narasmiha is cool, a massive statue nearby the Krishna Temple.
South of Hampi lie the royal ruins - the palaces and quarters where the rulers lived. The Hazarama is yet another temple, the Mahanavami-Diiba is a massive 8m platform that looks like a miniature, squashed, unrestored Chichén Itza
in the middle of a large lawn and other ruins, and the Zenana Enclosure is a peaceful oasis of green lawns and pavilions including the Lotus
Hampi is a mecca for climbing and bouldering.
Mahal and the grand Elephant Stables. The Queen's Bath is a wonderfully and lavishly designed bathhouse. Considering I also managed a cash run to the ATM in the next town, it was all-in-all a rather successful day although cycling in the sun was a bit of a hard slog.
With the number of boulders and the amount of rocks here in Hampi it is perhaps no surprise that there are quite a few climbing enthusiasts here. I met one Swiss couple who were going to spend one whole month here. Seeing as it is one of the major activities to do around here, I thought that I might as well give it go. Along with Alex and Tom, two Brits I had been hanging out with here in Hampi - although we had actually met for the first time back in Palolem in Goa - I decided to give bouldering a go with a beginner's lesson.
And I have to say that it was thoroughly enjoyable. You really have to believe in your upper body strength and you can climb rocks that you'd never think you'd be able to climb. There were a couple of hard ones that none
One of two towers of the Virupaksha Temple that er, towers over Hampi Bazaar.
of us could do but I managed to do everything that everyone else did. To be fair, I had always thought of myself as a handy climber as I have always been lightweight and agile - I even climbed doorframes when I was a kid (which probably explains my wonky knees) - and I managed to get up a couple of the boulders super-fast. It really is amazing how little of a hold you need to pull yourself up; but it does require a bit of strength and finger grip and your forearms get a decent workout! The only thing I really struggled with were the climbing shoes which are deliberately made about two sizes too small as it is advantageous to curl your toes to form a hook or a claw to increase your traction on the rock. It was so painful and I could only wear them for about five minutes at a time. It felt like a perfect recipe for ingrown toenails. My fingertips were pretty sensitive by the end and even holding anything was a struggle. My arms and back were going to be sore the next day...
There is a fairly well-marked backpacker's trail
In Virupapur Gadi, the more peaceful side of the river where most visitors now stay.
in India and almost everyone that comes to India comes to Hampi; and everyone who comes to Hampi inevitably comes to Goan Corner. So as well as reuniting with Alex and Tom, I also caught up again with British Tom who I met in Arambol
, Immy, as well as Aussie John - who I first met in Udaipur
- again, for the third time. Hampi is such an antidote to the chaos of normal India that one can end up staying here a long time.
Unfortunately however, it was someone who wasn't here with me in Hampi who was uppermost in my thoughts during my time there; and sadly, I will never be with him again. It was in Hampi that I learned an old colleague and a good friend of mine in London had passed away, aged just 31. I had only just seen him a couple of months earlier in London
- it was actually his flat in Tooting Broadway where I stayed for the majority of my time back there - and he was fit as a fiddle. News of his passing obviously came as a real shock as he passed away so young and Phil's
View Of Virupaksha Temple
Looking over Hampi's only remaining working temple, which is situated right alongside Hampi Bazaar.
death left me with a heavy heart and tremendous sadness for the rest of my time in Hampi. I still actually can't believe he has gone; being over here in India, away from London, it really doesn't feel real and I keep thinking that the next time I return, I will catch up with him again, just like normal. At the same time, I wish I could be back in London to grieve with all my other friends and ex-colleagues who knew him. Therefore I'd like to dedicate this blog entry to Phil Blackmore, a true gentleman and one of the most thoroughly decent guys one could hope to meet. You were taken from us far too soon mate. I hope you don't rest in peace - you were far too active to want to lie down for the rest of eternity - and I hope that you're up there somewhere playing football or running another marathon!
If there is one positive to come out of anyone who has passed away far too young, it is a reminder for those of us still here that life can be fickle and that we should make the most of what we
Just outside the Zenana Enclosure are these grand stables that once housed the royal elephants.
have and live our lives to the fullest while we have the opportunity to do so. By continuing my journey, I hope to honour Phil's memory and do just that.
ಆಮೇಲೆ ಸಿಗೋಣ (Āmēle sigōṇa),
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